By Kathleen Berger, Executive Producer for Science & Technology
Third-year medical students developed reusable face shields to help protect health-care workers during the coronavirus pandemic. It was part of an elective class on COVID-19 response. Eight students responded to a call-to-action from Victoria J. Fraser, MD, the head of the Department of Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
The eight students began designing prototype reusable face shields using plastic sheeting, cushion foam, elastic fabric and weatherproofing seal.
“They’re really made to be used with some sort of mask underneath, either a N95 or a surgical mask,” explained Katie Jordan, a third-year medical student. “The real purpose of it is to protect the masks underneath from getting droplets on it.”
The students tested the face shields on faculty and medical trainees for usability before they produced more than 1,600 of them in three days. The students accomplished their goals with an assembly line of about 50 people, as the core eight enlisted medical school volunteers to help with mass production in a conference room.
The group wasn’t even done producing the face shields when residents and attending physicians would come by the conference room assembly line, picking them up heading into the hospitals.
“They would actually take our prototypes with them, not even the finished products, to the wards because it’s just that necessary,” said Avira Som, third-year medical student.
The Department of Medicine funded the low-cost project. Dr. Steven J. Lawrence, associate professor of medicine, is part of the med school’s Division of Infectious Diseases. He’s a faculty advisor for students involved in coronavirus response initiatives.
“They haven’t graduated or have their medical license, but they’re already finding ways to be able to contribute meaningfully for the community in our region in ways that never would have been anticipated going into medical school,” said Dr. Lawrence.